Standard Ebooks

You may have noticed in my previous post that many of the books I read during 2018 had standardised covers like these:

Images of book covers

These are all books I produced for the Standard Ebooks project this year. The aim of this project is described as follows:

Standard Ebooks is a volunteer driven, not-for-profit project that produces new editions of public domain ebooks that are lovingly formatted, open source, and free.

Ebook projects like Project Gutenberg transcribe ebooks and make them available for the widest number of reading devices. Standard Ebooks takes ebooks from sources like Project Gutenberg, formats and typesets them using a carefully designed and professional-grade style manual, fully proofreads and corrects them, and then builds them to create a new edition that takes advantage of state-of-the-art ereader and browser technology.

As one of their producers, once I have done the work described above on each book, I then have to find a suitable cover for it. ‘Suitable’ here is defined as a piece of fine art relevant to the text which can be proved to be in the public domain in the United States (which is where SE is based). Proving this can be very challenging. You have to be able to find a photographic reproduction of the artwork in some publication which was printed before 1923. This can sometimes be the most time-consuming part of the SE process, as it involves a lot of searching through works held in the Internet Archive or in the HathiTrust Digital Library (or sometimes, Google Books). I’ll let you judge for yourself, but I’m personally very pleased with my choices of the covers shown above.

And of course, as part of the process I had to read every one of these books quite closely, so that’s why they appear on my ‘What I Read in 2018’ list.

Of all of these books, the most interesting to read, and the most challenging to work on were Personal Memoirs by Ulysses S. Grant, and Struggles and Triumphs by P. T. Barnum. Although The Origin of Species, which is my current production, is proving equally challenging.

It was also fun to produce and re-read all of the collections of Sherlock Holmes short stories (I did Hound of the Baskervilles last year).

All of these ebooks are available for free, in various formats, at the Standard Ebooks website. They are not only completely free, but also open-source. If you find any errors, or disagree with the treatment of something, you can fork the repository on GitHub and submit a pull request to change it.